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stabilization, brass, and broken cutters - Doug Ayen's Blacksmithing Blog [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Doug Ayen

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stabilization, brass, and broken cutters [Mar. 25th, 2004|10:01 pm]
Doug Ayen
[mood |frustratedfrustrated]

I'd been pulling a vacuum on the wood overnight, so I mixed up the stabilization solution, worked the valves, and filled the chamber with the stabilizer. I'll let it soak for a day or so, then put some pressure on it and see if that improves the quality of the stabilization. I've got the bloodwood, olivewood, camphor and redwood burls, lacewood, and the black palm in the chamber.

I attempted to cut out and machine the guards I want to use for this batch of knives, but my sawsall broke, and when I finally got the pieces cut out I broke my last 1/8" milling cutter on the first pass. I'll have to go order some more, unless I can find a place locally that carries them (if anyone reading this knows of a place that carries milling cutters in the area, please let me know.)

With that stalled, the wood soaking, I decided to take the rest of the day off and made some pizza. Hard to mess up. Delicious. Hazard-free.

In a book I was reading recently, the author talked about how in crafting an item, there are usually two ways of doing said crafting. Doing things by hand, with hand tools, carefully and all-so-slowly is the safe, yet inefficient way. To speed things up, but introducing an element of risk to both the work, the tools, and to the craftsman, power tools and faster processes have been developed.

For example, to make a knife I use a high-powered grinder. My first knife, stolen years ago, was made by hand with a file, sandpaper, and some hand woodworking tools. That first knife took dozens of hours just to profile and bevel the blade, yet it's lines were crisp and clean, there was little danger of burns, overheating the metal, removing too much metal in the wrong place, getting the plunge cut or shoulders even, and so on. With the high-powered grinder, I have all of the above to worry about, in addition to the danger of breaking sanding belts, the hazard of getting a knife caught in a machine and thrown back at me, metal dust and grinding grit inhalation, and so on. Yet I can now profile and bevel a blade in a matter of minutes instead of hours. It's a tradeoff I'm willing to make.

Still, I think of the first few knives I tried to make using this grinder, of how many blades I destroyed accidentally, or which were ripped out of my hands and thrown at great speed at a wall or the ceiling, and I look at the efforts of some of the newer knifemakers I've met, and I wonder.

I wonder if, instead of introducing them to the grinder first time out, instead I hand them a piece of stock and a file, teach them how to file, and let them make their first blade that way. But who, nowadays, is willing to take that kind of time for a first effort at a hobby? I know that *I* no longer have the time to do things by hand like that.

I bought the milling machine for just such an elimination of hand work. Up until now to make guards I've drilled holes in a row, taken a file and just filed my way through the holes until I've created a slot to fit the tang through. With the milling machine, I thought I could just remove metal as I wished. I've read about machining, and thought I knew enough to just jump into the process. The result? One ruined guard, four broken milling bits, and frustration.

Now, I know that in a while I'll look back on this and laugh, and won't even remember doing guards by hand. The fault lies in me, in my impatience, in my inexperience, and not in the tool. Sooner, rather than later, I'll get the hang of this tool and will be able to do things that I would never be able to do by hand in a reasonable amount of time.

Meanwhile, the pizza is yummy (semolina dough crust, homemade pizza sauce, provolone, mozzarella, and brie cheese, pepperoni, and onion), and even if I don't manage to finish any knives before next week's knife conference, I'll be that much further towards getting this lot finished so I can move on to the next project.

It's still frustrating, though.


[User Picture]From: folzgold
2004-12-11 06:12 pm (UTC)
I just started blacksmithing (we have a forge at Hampshire College). I'm willing to learn by filing the blades down and all - except that I have to be really careful. We have a stupid "weapons" policy on campus. No knives over four inches, from end of the handle to tip of the blade. I have to be real sneaky.
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